Category Archives: novel

My Week In Writing (24/09/17)

shrink final

I’ve been busy! The above is where my novel is currently sitting, roughly speaking – it’s shrunk down a little more since then (about another hundred words) but you get the idea. I’ve renewed my subscription to Agent Hunter, and I have… a variety of query letter resources tabbed. It’s on!

In other news: Annique is sitting just shy of 35k, which is surprisingly short, given how long I’ve been working on it. It’s a strange project and while I’m determined to finish it, in all honesty once it’s done I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything with it.

I also started two new stories: one is tentatively titled Quiet, Loud and is about a werewolf who becomes an interdimensional police office. It’s part of the collection I’ve been working on and of all the stories I’ve written so far, it’s the one that I think would make the least sense to, um, people who aren’t me.

The other one is for Shoreline of Infinity’s flash fiction contest and it’s 371 words long, at present. I’m remaining hopeful that I can get it written in 1000 words or less by the end of the week – I’ve already had to scrap one idea for being too complicated.

I’m three episodes deep into The Night Witches, which is very enjoyable, so far. It’s what Big Finish does best – four episodes of solid Doctor Who. Looking forward to finishing it off.

I listened to the first episode of Doom Coalition 4, which was very strong and I really hope the rest of the boxset follows through.

I finished reading The Shock of the Fall (review forthcoming) and started reading The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden, which I’ve been looking forward to. I also reviewed Room on Goodreads.

Next week I’m off to the literary salon (hopefully – I didn’t make it to the creative salon) and settling back into work after a short and impromptu holiday.

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My Week In Writing (27/08/17)

20170826_142243Well, the festival’s nearly over. I haven’t taken in as much theatre as I’d have liked, but I suppose there’s still time!

This week, I went to see Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites at the National Museum.

The artefacts on display weren’t, for the most part, especially interesting to me, but the whole experience was really great.

I’d heard some complaints about how it represented the Jacobites themselves (in particular, there being almost no references to Gaelic speakers) but having seen it for myself I’m not especially troubled. It’s very clearly an exhibition about the Stuarts in exile, not about the ordinary Jacobites.

It’s a very heavy exhibition and gets heavier as you go along, but it also includes this delightful tartan suit so… I don’t really have a point. They’d put shoes on the suit, which made it look a lot less silly.

Then I went on a little trip to see Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2 for sale in the book festival shop, which was very exiting and very stuffy.

I finished reading The Dark Side of the Sun and reviewed it on Goodreads, and also worked through a little backlog of book reviews. And I read Shoreline 8 1/2, or the new short stories, anyway.  Thoroughly recommended, and not just because I’m in it.

I also finished a round of edits on my novel, so I’m now working very diligently to edit it down to a more reasonable length. It’s lost 2000 words already, and hopefully I can keep the pace up. So far it’s fiddly and a bit tedious, but not actually difficult.

Next week, I’m planning to start reading Strata and, hopefully, get another 7-10,000 words out of my novel.

 

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My Week In Writing (21/08/17)

20170807_220847Obligatory reminder that Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2 is on sale right now, for the low low price of £10!

That shameless shill aside: this week I went to the launch event for, you guessed it, Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2. Listened to some strange and fascinating music, heard some great sci-fi and fantasy from authors in the book, heard some bad jokes, the usual.

I also had the very strange experience of hearing my own work performed – apparently it was a last minute addition to the closing musical performance, so I found out as the performance was in progress.

My thought process was something along the lines of: 1) which story is this? 2) this isn’t very good. 3) Wait a minute. 4) Is this my story?

It was performed by Atzi and the Reverse Engineer, who do, respectively, sensational cello and ambient techno. A very strange, very atmospheric bit of music and ambient sound. They made my story sound way better than I wrote it. Go see them perform, if you were have the opportunity, because they were fantastic and also super friendly!

In other news: I have a job interview coming up this week, which I am most definitely not prepared for.

I’m now editing chapter eleven of thirteen of my novel, so this round of edits should be done fairly soon. I feel like this section probably drags a bit, but cuts are in the next round so I shan’t worry about that just yet!

While I’m talking (very regularly) about Shoreline of Infinity, they also have an upcoming flash fiction contest, which I’m hoping to enter, if I can come up with an ide.a Details here.

I finished reading The Thirteen Guests, which I found a little exposition-y, but it had a solid final twist (and ultimately, surprisingly little murder). I’m now reading The Dark Side of the Sun, largely out of interest in Terry Pratchett’s early work, but I’m actually enjoying it far more than I expected.

Other that that, if I’m going to be brutally honest, I’ve not been doing much at all. Here’s to a more productive week ahead.

 

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My Week In Writing (21/05/17)

20170521_175211Well, first of all the big news: I resigned from my job this week. I’m still hoping to find an entry level position in publishing, but I can’t stomach staying in my current job any longer. Four more weeks and I’m out. Hopefully moving to some kind of temp job. I’m trying not to think about it too much, when I’m not actively job hunting – this level of uncertainty is a terrible thing!

That out of the way: I started reading Summer and marking it up for a final round of edits. So far I’ve found two glaring flaws I’d previously missed, one of which I’m pretty sure has been there since draft one. I have no idea how I missed it for so long! I’m on chapter three, and stalling to do some minor re-structuring.

Settlement 359 has passed 140k and despite my best efforts, I’ve started a part eight, titled Freefall. Things kept getting worse and worse for my protagonist, so I rolled with it and now she’s struggling to recover from mental time travel-enduced amnesia. However, I’m pretty sure part eight will be the last one… I’ve been saying this for a while.

I’ve started work on an entry for Big Finish’s annual short story contest. Torn between two ideas, not sure which is best, and as I don’t have to have a completed story to enter and I can submit more than one, I might as well try and do both.

Speaking of Big Finish, this week I listened to a William Hartnell era Lost Story called The Dark Planet, which was both a fairly typical sixties Doctor Who story, exceptionally dark, more or less impossible to do on film now let along fifty years ago. I’m not surprised it didn’t get made. It’s fascinating listening, though.

This week’s Doctor Who, Extremis, was absolutely phenomenal. Beautifully executed mindscrew and absolutely terrifying – my only concern is how they’re going to top it with the (by the looks of it, more conventional) follow up!

I started reading Darling by Jackie Kay, which is slow going because you can’t just rush through a poetry collection, you have to pause and contemplate, y’know?

Next week, I’m planning to listen to some monthly range Big Finish stories with the Fifth Doctor (my fav!) and start reading The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, the last of my birthday books. Otherwise, I’m job hunting relentlessly.

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How I wrote a novel on purpose: Ash

“The wind’s blowing from the north.”

I don’t say anything. Above us, the sky is solid black, and the wind tastes like smoke.

“That’s a good sign, ye ken. Your mother’s a north witch.”

“I suppose.” I look at my trainers. The toes are scuffed to hell and back. They’re starting to pinch. We were supposed to be going shoe shopping next weekend.

“You’ll be a north, one day.”

I look up at Heather. She’s smiling down at me nicely, her bobble hat pulled low on her head. That soft, sympathetic smile I’m going to be seeing a lot of shortly, and I’m already sick of it. “I guess.”

Up until last November, I’d never done National Novel Writing Month properly. Although it’s not enforced, technically the rules request that you start a completely new project rather than continuing something you’ve already started. Almost all my NaNoWriMos have been continuations of existing projects.

(And before anyone asks: no, of course I didn’t count what I’d already written towards my NaNoWriMo total. I started a new document each time and ‘married’ the sections together later. I don’t know why some people find this difficult to understand!)

Come late October 2016, I had two projects I wanted to work on: my 2015 NaNoWriMo, which was a fairly successful attempt at my ‘big’ novel, and Settlement 359. Both were, at the time, stalling. Neither thrilled me. As late as the first regional meeting, I still hadn’t made my mind up.

Then, on the night of October 30th, I had a dream. My dream went something like this: I was a teenage girl in some kind of magical world. I was sent to live in a big house with several other girls (one was a young Natalie Portman). The house had magical paintings on the walls that were part of a protection spell.

After a spell in the house (ha) I was menaced in the garden by a demon that took the form of a hooded figure. It moved very slowly towards me and it was important that I walk rather than running away, if I wanted to escape alive. After that I was taken out of the house and to somewhere safer.

I woke up, and thought there’s a YA fantasy novel in that dream. Then I thought, this is fate.

So, come November 1st, I started an entirely new novel, with an entirely new fantasy world. I went in with a solid idea of how magic would work in this world and the ‘demon in the garden scene’ as my goal to work towards (I figured it for an act one climax, of sorts).

Otherwise, I was winging it. I threw in new characters whenever I got bored. It’s in a first person voice, which is a first for me in long-form fiction. The central plot twist came to me in the bathroom at work. It was all very exciting.

I wrote about 70k during the month of November and this past January I finished it off, bringing it up to 83k, which isn’t too bad for a rough first draft.

What’s it about? This is the ‘official’ blurb at present:

Ash’s mother is a witch. Ash’s mother has disappeared. Locked in a safehouse for young witches, Ash tries to make sense of what has happened and of her destiny, but the force that took her mother is closing in, and a snap decision to protect a human girl threatens to break everything apart.

It’s structured, I hope, a bit like an unfurling flower. It opens in a world very like ours, but with the occasional witch. Each bit of new information given about witches, their origins, and their powers, renders the world they live in stranger and more alien. About halfway throught, the main character and her friends journey into the Land of Fairy and it just gets weirder from there.

Ash is on hold at present, until after I finish editing my other novel… and writing my other other novel… you get the picture. But it was a lot of fun to write and I’m very pleased with the result – looking forward to writing that second draft, just as soon as I have the time.

“This is Fairy, Ash. Anything is possible.”

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My Week In Writing (7/5/17)

20170430_205810To be quite honest, I’ve had a hellishly busy week – two job interviews + a meeting to discuss volunteering + an anthology deadline. And then next week, I have two more job interviews! And after that I’m going to Berlin. So, that’s going to be a fun ride.

Settlement 359 is now sitting just shy of 132k and I really hope it’s coming up on the climax, though as I’m still not 100% sure what said climax is I really don’t know. But I am coming up on a scene I flashed forward to earlier in the novel, which is always exciting.

Summer is coming along nicely as well. I made a proper list of all the edits I still need to make and I’m working on 1-2 a night. I’m optimistically aiming to get this draft done in a month or so.

I submitted my story for The Temporal Logbook II. I’m not 100% satisfied with the finished product – I only managed to find one person to read it at such short notice and he found it confusing, which is a difficult criticism to take on board because it was supposed to be confusing. Just, in a good way. I hope.

I started re-reading The Circle Opens by Tamora Pierce. I got through Magic Steps and Street Magic, the two I read when I was a kid, and now I’m moving into new territory with Cold Fire. Once I’m done with all four, I’ll finally be done with all my Christmas books (hurray!)… and I’ll be able to move onto the books I got for my birthday. Starting with Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay.

I didn’t listen to as much audio stuff as usual, because I only worked a couple of days this week, but I did start listening to the third season of Jago & Litefoot, which in a delightful twist also features Tom Baker-era companion Leela. I’m about halfway through now and it’s probably my favourite season so far.

And I listened to The Children of Seth, part of their Lost Stories range. It’s by Christopher Bailey, who wrote some of my favourite Doctor Who serials (Kinda and Snakedance) and like his other stories, it’s dizzyingly confusing. I’m still not sure if I liked it or not.

Next week I’m hoping to finish The Circle Opens and listen to The Masters of Luxor, another lost story, this time from the William Hartnell era. And I’m going to Berlin, to see some museums and (I hope) eat some cake.

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How I accidentally wrote a novel

20170426_211110

The only copy of The Challenge

In July of 2016, I was in that awkward place of wanting to start a new story, but having no new ideas. I cast about for an old idea I might be able to put down on paper – and all of a sudden, remembered a sci-fi story I wrote for my GCSE English coursework. I remembered it involved time-travelling aliens, a desert, and a pretty cool used future aesthetic.

Trouble was, on investigation it turned out I’d erased my copy together with all of my old schoolwork. Well, I’d got the idea in my head now. I figured I’d just try and do it again, from memory, and see where it took me.

End result: 120,000 words and counting YA science fiction novel. I didn’t mean to write a novel. I just wanted to start a new longish short story.

This isn’t even the first time. When I sit down intending to write a novel, it fizzles out after a few pages. Almost all my novels have come about after deciding to write a thing… you know, a thing, just something, no pressure. Just write a thing. Suddenly, the thing is 200,000 words long, and I don’t know how it happened.

My sci-fi novel is work-titled Settlement 359 (which I’ll almost certainly change). It’s a story about Cobey H, a 16-year-old human-alien hybrid living on a desert planet that used to be an oil colony owned by an outerspace superpower descended from the USA. There’s a conspiracy, and an interstellar war, and a lot of hybrids with superpowers, and around about act two it all goes a bit Slaughterhouse 5 (one the time travel kicks in).

And it’s pre-novel history is pretty interesting. I through this idea around a couple of times, before committing to it and turning it into something unrecognisable.

The Challenge

I remember I was dead set on writing sci-fi for my English Language coursework. Screw literature, I wanted to have fun and be honest about myself and what I write. I’d also just got done watching Firefly and wanted to write something with a similar vibe.

The first version of The Challenge was about some kids travelling to an abadoned space station and it was basically a haunted house story in space. Which now I look back on it, is actually a pretty fun idea, but it didn’t go anywhere. At some point I realised I had no actual plot, put it aside, and started over.

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A space map

Same title (which might have been part of the assignment? I honestly don’t remember), same aesthetic, totally different story. The second version of The Challenge was about a girl called Callie who lives in a blended human-alien community. Callie has some alien genes, and shares their time travel powers. She spends the story trying to convince the alien priest to let her participate in their coming of age rite, which involves a select group of young people travelling back to the foundation of their society.

Like I said, I deleted my only digital copy, but while clearing out my childhood bedroom, I found a hard copy complete with notes in the margin from my teacher. It’s alright, considering. There’s a pretty glaring structural issue and the used future aesthetic I wanted so badly doesn’t even figure that highly, and the time travel doesn’t make a lick of sense – I remember being acutely aware of that last problem at the time. I’d kind of glad I didn’t get to re-read it before starting the novel. Might have put me off.

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Visual development for the webcomic that didn’t happen

I think I meant to make it a longer story, but at some point I accepted that I was never going to write it, because I adopted the setting (at some point dubbed Marikesh) for another project I was writing, a romance story set in an outerspace monarchy. I wanted it to contain several planets, and grabbed a ready-made one. At one point it was going to be a webcomic, so I have a lot of drawings for it, but that never got off the ground. I never intended for Marikesh to really appear in the story, and it didn’t.

But the romance story did focus on the ramifications of being an interspecies hybrid, which is the central theme of the novel I ended up writing.

Settlement 359 has not been an easy ride. For some reason, I only recently realised that when writing a novel one doesn’t actually have to include all the minutiae of one’s protagonist’s life, so the early sections are, er, a bit padded.

Cobey H spends a lot of the novel stuck in a rut, and not even really trying to get out. She’s a difficult protagonist, one who dodges the call to adventure at every turn because she just doesn’t want any trouble, you know? When she finally goes, she quite literally goes kicking and screaming. Why did I write her that way? I honestly don’t know, but I think it’ll work. I hope it’ll work.

Right now, I’m in part 7, Endgame, which should involve the climax, which should lead into a happy ending. I’ll keep you posted.

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